June 6, 2014

Book Review: My Guantanamo Diary

From Good Reads: Mahvish Khan is an American lawyer, born to immigrant Afghan parents in Michigan. Outraged that her country was illegally imprisoning people at Guantanamo, she volunteered to translate for the prisoners. She spoke their language, understood their customs, and brought them Starbucks chai, the closest available drink to the kind of tea they would drink at home. And they quickly befriended her, offering fatherly advice as well as a uniquely personal insight into their plight, and that of their families thousands of miles away. For Mahvish Khan the experience was a validation of her Afghan heritage—as well as her American freedoms, which allowed her to intervene at Guantanamo purely out of her sense that it was the right thing to do. Mahvish Khan's story is a challenging, brave, and essential test of who she is —and who we are.

My Thoughts: This was a fascinating read, particularly in light of the current controversy over Bergdahl exchange. I had hoped the book was more about Khan's work to get these prisoners a trial, rather than just the experiences of the detainees she met with. Their experiences were harrowing and I can understand why a lot of critics called her a sympathizer, however, she really brings to light that so many detainees in Guantanamo were there simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that they had enemies who took advantage of the bounties that the US were offering. I felt that she should have gone much more extensively into this, but I still enjoyed the stories. The book was very much the detainees' stories, and that isn't what I expected. I thought it would be more of a call to action...that guilty or innocent, everyone deserves the right to a fair trial. That's what she was working to do, so I would have liked to see more about that. I give it three stars.

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